Sex and HIV/AIDS education in schools

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7002.403 (Published 12 August 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:403
  1. Douglas Kirby
  1. Director of research ETR Associates, PO Box 1830, Santa Cruz, CA 95061 1830, USA

    Have a modest but important impact on sexual behaviour

    As British and American societies have become increasingly concerned about sexual risk-taking behaviour among adolescents, they have increasingly looked towards schools to address and possibly limit such behaviour. Schools are the one institution that young people regularly attend; they are geared towards increasing students' knowledge and improving their skills; and they are especially well fitted to educate young people about subjects such as sexuality, in which different concepts should be taught at different developmental stages. On the other hand, conditions in schools may not be ideal: class time is limited, teachers are often not trained in handling sensitive subjects, and considerable controversy surrounds the teaching of some subjects. What light can be thrown on these issues by the evidence on sex education in schools?

    When studies such as the two articles in this week's issue (pp 414, 417)1 2 evaluate the effectiveness of sex education programmes by measuring their impact on behaviour they apply standards that are not applied to most other school subjects. Most school teaching is evaluated by assessing its impact on knowledge and not on behaviour outside the classroom. Thus when research on sex education programmes uses outcomes …

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